WA introduces new drink and drug driving reforms

WA introduces reforms requiring truck drivers to have a zero blood alcohol level

November 24, 2010

Truck drivers travelling in Western Australia will be forced to have a zero blood alcohol content level as part of tough measures being introduced by the state’s government.

Road Safety Minister Rob Johnson today introduced the Road Traffic Amendment (Alcohol and Drug Related Offences) Bill 2010 imposing zero tolerance measures on drivers of buses, taxis, heavy vehicles, small charter vehicles and dangerous goods vehicles.

Recently disqualified motorists and those using extraordinary licences will also be bound the changes.

"Research shows that consuming alcohol prior to driving increases crash risk, and the more alcohol a person consumes before driving, the greater their chance of being involved in a crash," Johnson says.

"Drug drivers will also face higher fines and longer suspension and/or cancellation periods depending on their level of impairment and/or number of previous offences."

Johnson says the Bill aims to deter motorists from offending or reoffending and has fired a broadside at alcohol and drug impaired drivers.

"Drink and drug drivers do not belong on our roads. They pose a significant risk to themselves and, most importantly, to other innocent road users and we have seen far too often the tragedy they can cause by their selfish actions," he says.

The Bill also increases the penalty for a first-time drink-driving offender to $250 for an infringement fine and up to $500 for a court-imposed fine. Currently, drivers face $100 and $200 fines respectively.

The court-imposed fine for re-offenders will double to $1000, while magistrates will have the power to disqualify a driver’s licence for up to eight months. Drivers can currently lose their licence for three months.

Motorists who test positive for illicit drugs or refuse to be tested at the roadside can be fined $500 for the first offence – up from $200.

Under changes proposed by Johnson, repeat offenders will be slugged with a $1000 fine and a six month licence disqualification. The current penalty is $500.

First-time and repeat illicit drug users will also lose three demerit points.

Drug impaired drivers will lose their licence for six months for a first offence.

Second-time offenders will lose their licence for up to two years, with the court having the power to issue a life ban on those who commit three or more offences.

Johnson says Western Australia’s drink driving laws have largely remain unchanged since 1997 and that the state has a low penalty regime.

"There is a pressing need to make penalties more relevant to the potential problems that breaches of the offences can cause and bring WA into line with other Australian jurisdictions," he says.

Johnson says 32 percent of fatal crashes in Western Australia in 2009 were due to drink driving, while 21,855 drivers tested positive to drink-driving in the 2009 financial year.

Meanwhile, Western Australia’s Parliamant passed the The Road Traffic Legislation Amendment (Disqualification by Notice) Bill, giving police the power to issue an immediate licence disqualification to motorists who are caught with a blood alcohol content above 0.08.

Police can also suspend the licence of motorists who refuse a breath or blood test. The legislation will also make it harder for people to obtain extraordinary licences.

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